The Revelatory Process

We call what we’re studying here “Scripture”, which means “written stuff.”

People have gone from an overly-reverent attitude towards scripture, to effective neglect. “There’s some very inspiring and ethically-instructive material in all that, and you can read it if you like, but we want to rush out and make a difference in the world.”

One thing you can say about that position: Anyone who adopts it is unlikely to “make a difference in the world.” If you want to know what’s really going on today, and will be going on tomorrow–Don’t read the news; read the histories. People are cheating, bullying, lying, stealing, murdering; and the histories will show you how people used to cheat, bully, lie, steal, murder, while earnestly proclaiming that they were doing something else. Oh, and blundering; we mustn’t forget blundering!

What seldom shows up in the news or the histories is that God is teaching, and people can learn.

Friends aka Quakers traditionally call this process “continuing revelation.” “Continuing”, to emphasize that God hasn’t stopped talking. “Revelation” to say that what we are learning comes from God.

We’ve traditionally thought of Scripture as ~what was revealed in the past. Logically, if it was Revealed, it must be true; and we must be able to use it for an authenticity check on current revelations. So much for logic.

Still, you can make surprising progress from that position. Practicing Jews, and Christians of liturgical denominations, collectively reread a collection of sacred writings every year– and every year, someone will find something he’d read many times, but never realized before. These writings are called ‘sacred’ because they lend themselves to personal revelations.

But they are not ‘Revelation’; they are tracks of the revelatory process.

A good tracker is someone who can study the ground, then tell you what’s been happening here. That’s the kind of tracks I mean. The ground is not a foolproof message from God; it’s a sketch of who’s been here and what they were doing.

The Bible contains many assertions about God and what God intended. People wrote them, and people have often been mistaken.

But these people knew that God was revealing ‘Himself’ to them, through them. The same process of living under God’s care and teaching, that’s been going on for a very long time, and if you want to understand how it’s working, you can look at how it’s worked in the past. God put a lot of work into teaching Israel, and a lot of work into teaching the Christian sects– and shouldn’t have to start from scratch with us.

What is being revealed to you? What do you want to know?

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9 responses

  1. Like you are saying there are way to many people who want to change the world before they have been changed themselves. The Scriptures not only reveal the changes that should be made, but through the power of the Holy Spirit (See Acts 1:9) EMPOWER us to change.

  2. that should be Acts 1:8. Sorry they misspelled my name. I'll try to get it right this time.

  3. Well, Bro, I'm more inclined to say that the Spirit, by means of the scriptures (and its other revelatory instruments) grows us up from inside… What I'm calling the Process is part of the Spirit's ongoing work; and that Spirit was working on/in people before we'd written a Bible, quiddly!"Empowers us?" Well, while we're trading quotes, "Who by taking thought can add one inch to his stature?" I wasn't "empowered" to grow, but God said "Let's make that kid bigger," and so it happened. I didn't grow myself…I think we're pretty agreed on what's happening with us, whatever we prefer to call it. I'm really glad when I see it happening, because I used to be more of a pain than I am now; and if I had to go on the way I've been sometimes it might be cause for Despair!Good to have you here!

  4. My attitude toward Scripture is actually quite similar to that that I take towards Meeting for Worship. A hopeful listening for the word of God, whether in myself, another or the text. Inspired means God-breathed -like us living and dynamic, Scripture that is static is dead. I recognize the importance of reading Scripture as a Faith community because I am aware of my shortcomings. As much as I revere the Holy Writ, I do not make an Idol of it, or put another way confuse the word with The Word. That said, I feel I am more accountable to the still small voice I hear now than any dusty confession or creed no matter how venerable.

  5. What a great thread! Here’s my sense. Extremely brief. Varieties. See e.g., 1 Corinthians 12ff, varieties. There are several elements (say multiple-axes) to varieties. Sometimes the Spirit moves in an energy-first inward moving (Gk, energēma). Sometimes an aim or end-result is given as in a vision or dream (more later on dreams, and dreams can include scientists having dreams, like Kekule). That is brief. And misleading. Misleadingly brief. There’s no limit on the Spirit in theory that prevents these inward movements from happening simultaneously (both energy and aim). My brevity here isn’t really textual exegesis. Nor speaking from omniscience. It’s more like self-report in a doctor’s office. When doctor visits start with narratives. Doctor asks, “what’s your story?” Okay. Take energy alone. Spirit inward energization (energēma). This is like metabolism. Freeman Dyson made a playful and fun proposal that life started on earth with metabolic life. Not genetic. Metabolic cells that had no genetic code. No reproduction. No replication. Just energy searching for more food. Speculative theory. But fun. Energy-life. Take genetic stuff (aim direction/end result or replication directed – not just biological genes, but more like Gk, διακονί, or service). These are movings from the Spirit to act toward an end or a purpose. Call these inspirations, or revelations – whatever your favorite vocabulary. We see an unlimited number of aims and purposes and ends all around us. Life is full of sales jobs. Buy this product. Vote this political party. Join this church. No shortage of genetic algorithms of ends and purposes all around. And many of these genetic-purposes leave me flat. I do not want to invest my energy (energēma) into many of these ends (διακονί, service-ends). If I feel that the Spirit is moving me toward a purpose or end or to do a genetic-action (“take a sack of groceries to your neighbor”), then I know that’s an end. With whatever necessary Quaker thrashing (testing) before acting. It’s getting the metabolic (energēma) and the genetic (διακονί, service) together! The Bible gives examples (1 Cor 10:6). Certainly more than case examples: because there’s poetry, history, law, ritual code, compositional layers, hero stories – all kinds of stuff. So the Spirit wants to reproduce the Spirit's life (metabolism) in me toward the Spirit's genetic ends (διακονί, services). When I visit the Doctor, I may need to fix one of these more than another. Today. The next day, another story. I agree that all of this happened before texts! To me — that's exciting. And faithful to the texts too.

  6. That Corinthians reference fills in something important, that the Spirit is awork with more than bringing us neat facts & interpretations. (although I'm particularly fond of those!)Not so sure how theories of the chemical origins of physical life fit in here…To this day we've got some very successful life-forms (ie retroviruses, AIDS & flu being the best-known examples) whose prevalence stems from the very sloppiness of RNA replication. (One virus puts a cell to work making copies, which produces a whole selection of critters loosely based on that template, so loosely that most of them might not even be viable. But by the time the host's immune system gets a fix on that first generation, the new generation has taken up a different fad…)Kind of a digression. In the Beginning, was God saying, "How will I explain this to Twentyfirst Century biochemists?"– or something more like, "This should make a great setting for a story!"? Thinking of this while making a batch of banana bread for Meeting tomorrow… convincing the friendly fly that he doesn't really want to be a raisin.You're saying that we're floating in a primordial soup of inspirations, all looking for a good mind to mate in? Or am I getting this wrong?I wasn't thinking haphazard or accidental; but just from the standpoint of revelation being a process rather than a thing. What the collector hangs on his wall is not art; the art happened when the artist was working on it; and that's over, at that point. But what the scriptures are about, that's still going on.And if I get you right, you see this process happening in a sort of John Holland evolving system of influences catalyzing other influences? But my experience is that whatever spiritual enzyme I need comes along and gloms right onto me as soon as I'm ready for it! Definite intentionality at work, and it isn't mine!

  7. what Random said. :), I think.

  8. broschultz, that’s what I think about my thoughts too! I think :).forrest, okay. The origins of physical life are an open puzzle too. A little bit of metaphor on the differences between seeking Life just to have a little more energy in contrast to seeking Life to follow more closely to a purpose. Both of these compliment each other. A great reference – primordial soup. I feel there are primordial soup moments and solid-form moments in the process (origins?) of revelation too – Kekule’s dream more soupy until worked by further discovery and hard work following many failures of experimenting before finding the benzene ring. We may not be organic chemists like Kekule. We do have our own trials and errors and successes to follow up with revelations that we too receive. Some are easier than others. Some revelations kinda difficult. For example, the current focus on torture as evil – has many applications and fine tuned instances. The process of revelation deposits stuff. Not now, but I might like to share a dream which illustrates this for me later. Even for some Quaker trashing online. I do like the John Holland reference. Process is a good frame.

  9. 'Energy vs purpose' looks like something to consider further. Stephen Gaskin having said that some 'spiritual' people were 'into the juice'– meaning that they were addicted to public attention and the psychic energy they could pick up from enthused followers, while not putting anything noticeable into the Spirit's purposes.That energy, he says, is a real, objectively perceivable 'thing' that does make a person/critter shinier and prettier– like the old linguistic roots of 'virtue', I'd think.A 'virtue' is a 'power'. An ethical virtue would then be: not just a desirable characteristic, but a kind of 'strength' that can be cashed in for the kind of results people truly like to see in the world…A burst of spiritual energy– can be burnt up in people's individual or collective egomobiles– or it can be 'thrown upon the waters' to get the whole psychic environment a little bit cleaner. Where there's a lot of it flying about, people get 'healed'.But without constant turning and returning to God, it runs down. A tent meeting kind of operation can work up tremendous energy– but unless some of that it is going into mental and creative channels, it becomes ultimately sterile. It needs to be "All your heart and all your strength and all your mind and all your soul."How we do that, Boss?

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